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December 28, 2016: The Bridge to Everywhere

For many years there have been plans on the books for the building of what some have called “The Bridge to Nowhere.” Actually, these were two bridges: one across the Knik Arm from Anchorage to Point Mackenzie and one from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, which is the site of Ketchikan’s airport. And for many years, I’ve had plans on the books for the building of what I have called “The Bridge to Everywhere.” About ten years ago, I went for one of my first rides on Raudi, up the trail that parallels property at the end of the road. This is on state land. I rode uphill, and in short order I came to a creek that was approximately three feet deep and one foot across. Raudi saw it, planted her feet, and would not jump it. I did not push the matter; however, I should have. I was then a pushover. Things are different

Tinni packing in the bridge tread

now. It’s usually my way or the highway. I made a mistake in not being insistent and have spent many years regretting it.

Tinni would hop over the creek bed, but not so Raudi. So this portion of the trail became a turnaround point. She’d go on to cross deeper and steeper creeks, but not this puny little number. I finally gave up trying. I did check out all other possible trail options, but all took me back to The Creek. I repeatedly said to Pete that I needed for someone to build me a bridge so that I could have access to the area across the creek. Pete agreed; however, he had a lot on his plate, so this project got put on hold.

Vickie Talbot (who once in a while rode with me), assisted me in putting in bridge I constructed here at home. We hauled it to the creek bed in her husband Mike’s swamp buggy. This bridge’s base consisted of one sheet of thin plywood. It creaked loudly and bent under my weight, so I deemed it too dangerous to cross on horseback.

About a month ago Pete gave in to my entreaties and agreed to assist me in putting in a bridge. Actually, what went unsaid was that I’d assist him in putting in a bridge since he’s far more hands on than I will ever be. Incentive for us both was that we’d be able to ride farther and check out more territory. For instance, we’d now be able to ride what we call the Bench Loop, and come down Jim’s Trail. And we’d be able to ride in the direction of Buffalo Mine Road, taking the high trail instead of the road. There were yet other reasons why putting in the bridge now was timely. Our regular riding trails have (sad to say) been discovered and are being trashed by ATVers and snowmobilers. And most importantly, Raudi’s getting bored with our riding the same trails on a near-daily basis. I say most importantly because though we have three other horses, the world still revolves around her.

Yesterday, on our way home from Anchorage, we stopped at Spenard Builder’s Supply and purchased wood. And today, we hauled the wood to the bridge site. I’d presumed that we’d ask our neighbor Keith to take us and the materials to the bridge site in his ATV. However, Pete had other ideas.

This morning it was snowy, overcast, in the low 20s. Pete had determined that we’d pack the bridge supplies in by horseback. We could have done this using Raudi, Hrimmi, or Tyra. However, Pete decided to use Tinni, our older horse. Tinni goes into retirement one day, then out of retirement the next. Today was an out-of-retirement day, so he got to do the honors. Pete put the pack saddle on him, and we put the wooden cross pieces in the side bags. Raudi, Ryder (dog), and I broke trail for Pete and Tinni.

It was a breathtaking ride/walk. Huge flakes were falling out the sky and the landscape had a sepia grey tinge. The snowmachiners have not yet frequented this area this year, so the only sounds were of snow crunching underfoot and horses snorting. As always when riding in this area, I felt lucky to be alive.

We arrived (too soon it seemed) at the creek, tied up Tinni and unloaded the pack bags. We then talked about a related venture; this will involve clearing some of the brush away from the area where the bridge will go in. We don’t want it to be visible to ATvers, but we do want it to be accessible to horseback riders.

We returned home and prepared to do a second run. Pete tied two 4x4s to the pack saddle using an a basket hitch. And I swapped out Raudi for Hrimmi. Our treeless saddle seems to bother the lumbar portion of Hrimmi’s spine, so we’re waiting until her new, custom made Synergist saddle gets here before again riding her.

We again headed downroad, and again at Tinni’s pace. He’s never in any hurry to get anywhere when being walked, and this time was no exception. I let Hrimmi and Ryder off-lead when finally we were a safe enough distance from the road. It brought me great joy watching the 14 hand pinto run and kick up snow, as did her returning to my side when I held out my gloved hand.

I was trying out a new glove arrangement – I wore fingerless rag wool gloves with Polypropylene liners beneath. I was pleased with how this was working. My fingertips remained warm and I again had much-needed dexterity. Up until today I removed my gloves when tightening halter straps, unlatching gates, and taking photos.

It was like the movie “Groundhog Day” – we again arrived at the bridge site. We again tied up Tinni. We again unloaded wood. We again deliberated about how we might go about clearing brush and putting in the bridge. Then we again turned around and headed downtrail, for home.

Tomorrow we’ll ride back to the bridge site and put in the bridge. Riding in the area across the creek will be good for our very smart ponies, all of whom seem to thrive on variety. Me too. We’d be bored out of our minds, riding in an arena in the winter, day in and day out. This is a far better option, one that I now concede was well worth the ten-year wait.

Next: 116. 12/29/16: Raudi’s Skookum Bridge to the High Country

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